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Fantastic Four #6 – Review

By: James Robinson (Writer), Leonard Kirk (Penciller), Karl Kessel (Inker), Jesus Aburtov and Veronica Gandini (Color Artists), Dean Haspiel & Nolan Woodard (Flashback Artists), VC’s Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

The Story:
Susan yells at the Avengers, the kids yell at Hammond, and Ben yells at Johnny.

The Review:
This issue is broken down into four distinct and linear chapters. The first is the Fantastic Four facing the Avengers (six pages), the Future Foundation facing Hammond (one page), the Thing facing against the Human Torch (three pages), and a flashback that details the memory of why Ben is confronting Johnny (six pages.) (Yes, this is counting double-page spreads as one page, which is kind of how things read nowadays on a tablet reader.)

Unfortunately, this kind of compartmentalization, exasperated by having the last compartment in an entirely different artistic style, fragments any kind of momentum for the story. This issue marks six months since the new relaunch, and it seems like the characters are still merely being pushed around, a long-form positioning so they can fit the kind of story Robinson wants to tell, which I hope will be soon. But let’s forgo a meta-textual critique and leave Robinson’s name out of it. Looking at the in-text narrative, it’s still apparent that all the forces coming down on the characters are coming from outside themselves. The FF’s troubles are coming from the courtroom (which is still not clear if that was a government action or civil suit, which nonetheless results in government action in-between panels), the Avengers are representing said courtroom’s interest, the Camp Hammond kids are complaining about things they overhear other people talking about as well as what other people will be doing to Dragon Man, and the Thing is reacting to a new memory given to him from the Original Sin crossover plot point, in which Reed and Johnny did something to him that we will have to wait until next issue to see.

Yes, there are some moments of clear characterization as these people react to what’s put upon them, most notably Invisible Woman with her cry of “won’t somebody think of the children” in a double-page spread of impressive display of power. But the ultimately what’s happening is that, for at least the second issue in a row, the Four are completely without agency in their own comic with no hint that this will be resolved soon.
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Batman Beyond Universe #10 – Review

By: Kyle Higgins and Christos Gage (writers), Thony Silas and Dexter Soy (artists), Emilio Lopez and Veronica Gandini (colorists)

The Story: It’s often disappointing to meet your heroes but it’s much worse when heroes meet themselves.

The Review: Last issue introduced us, and our friendly neighborhood Batman, to the Terry McGinnis of the Justice Lord timeline. Though giving Terry his own mission in another dimension is a great device to allow him a story that’s important and distinct from the larger threat back on our earth, so far it’s had a little trouble breaking away from the expected route. That remains an issue this month . “I’m starting to get déjà[ vu],” Terry quips, metatextually commenting on Kyle Higgins’ continued adherence to the path set by “Rebirth, Part I”.

Nonetheless, the two Batman Beyond chapters here are avoid their predecessor’s missteps by introducing stronger characterization and even more action. Better still, it uses the two in tandem to great effect. Terry McGinnis’ story is ultimately a redemptive one. Unlike many heroes, Terry came very close to making the wrong choices in life and his time in the Batsuit is very much an opportunity to prove to himself that he can be better.

This is honestly one of the most interesting elements of Terry’s character and I was always sad that the mention of his need to prove himself was cut from the final version of Return of the Joker. Higgins puts it to great use here, forcing Terry to confront his demons while still giving the Lords universe Terry valid, if vague, rebuttals. “You’re a Joker?”our Terry demands. “Hey, not everybody gets handed a fancy suit,” his double responds. This debate forms the spine of both chapters, lasts long enough to provide some great character work, and then moves over for a new issue before it overstays its welcome.
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Batman Beyond Universe #9 – Review

By: Kyle Higgins and Christos Gage (writers); Thony Silas, Dexter Soy, and Matteo Guerrero (artists), Emilio Lopez, Dexter Soy, and Veronica Gandini (colorists)

The Story: The Justice League scrambles to determine if the Wonder Woman who fought off Brainiac is who she says she is as Terry does reconnaissance on the other side of the mirror.

The Review: Batman Beyond Universe has been one of my favorite series for the past nine months. Though it’s not part of DC’s mainline continuity, the series has dutifully continued the legacy of the DCAU, melding character, adventure, and intrigue into clever and interesting stories.

This issue the series takes its first gamble with one of the great triumphs and risks of the comics medium, the event crossover. The result is something of a different issue from what we’ve been used to, but undoubtedly a fascinating one.

We begin with a Batman Beyond story entitled “Neo World Order”. One thing that’s really nice about this story is that it’s focused on the Jokerz. In playing the part of generic thugs to much of the Batman Beyond timeline, the Jokerz lost quite a bit of credibility as antagonists. Still, while they may be no threat to Batman, this story does a good job of reminding you the sheer psychological effect that the Jokerz have on Neo Gotham. In many ways this gang is actually the ultimate defeat of Batman; Gotham has truly become a place of hopelessness and fear, where the idea of losing one’s parents is all too believable.
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Revolutionary War: Death’s Head II #1 – Review

by Andy Lanning, Alan Cowsill (Writers), Nick Roche (Artist), Veronica Gandini (Colorist)

The Story: It might sound wise not to betray and piss off a time-travelling freelance peacekeeping agent, yes?

The Review
: There has been a certain re-emergence of Death’s Head in the Marvel universe. Thanks to the work of Kieron Gillen in making him a part of his S.W.O.R.D. and Iron Man runs, the vocal and somewhat polite robot made quite an impact in terms of general appreciation. With the Revolutionary War storyline going on, the opportunity to present his history as well as updating him is definitely present, yet can Andy Lanning and Alan Cowsill actually do as nice a job as Gillen when it comes to the freelance peacekeeping agent?

For the most part, the tale does represent a good lot of what is fun with the many versions of the character, with the three different interpretations being reintroduced in this issue. It is by no mean a perfect issue, with some problems plaguing it in some important areas, yet it succeeds in the most fundamental of aspects: fun.

The best thing about this issue is the characterization, with a fast-paced and hilarious attention to the speeches, declarations and actions of both protagonists. Both Death’s Head and Death’s Head II are similar, yet different in important aspects, showing who’s the actual upgrade and how they differ despite their resemblance in terms of approach and quirks. Their interactions, throughout the issue, goes from begrudging respect, comedy and rather neat action which sells that there is definitely room for both in the Marvel universe.
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Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon #1 – Review

by Rob Williams (Writer), Will Sliney (Artist), Veronica Gandini (Colorist)

The Story: Magic is getting changed toward something altogether as Mys-Tech tries to make sure it stays like this forever thanks to the help of zombie King Arthur. Thankfully, some of the old Knights of Pendragon are there to try to save the day.

The Review: There are times when you do not know what to think after finishing an issue. Whether it is actually better or worse than your actual initial analysis, there some comics that are transcendental in terms of quality. Despite what it might try to do, its success and its actual intentions are lost in the sea of confusion that finishing the issue leaves the reader in, with naught but the ambiguity of the general appreciation in terms of company.

This is pretty much how I felt when I finished the last page of this comic. While it decidedly does feel British in many of its aspects, there are many oddities in this comic that are a bit indiscernible in terms of intents. Was this supposed to be weird and confusing? Was it supposed to be funny? How does this tie-in to the general story behind Revolutionary War? All of these questions, unfortunately, aren’t that clearly answered, even with a second reading, making this something that is hard to render in objective terms.

As far as the humor goes, it range from genuinely funny to downright bizarre, with some lines of dialogue, especially those made by Union Jack, that are downright entertaining. However, there is a certain dedication to randomness and destruction of expectations here that make some of the elements here rather unclear in terms of their legitimate worth as humor. It might be because I’m from Quebec, but there are several jokes that felt either a bit too light or forced to make them actually funny. There’s an uneven execution of jokes which makes some of the better jokes really great, yet they are balanced by downright weird jokes that make close to no sense.
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The Fearless Defenders #6 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (writer), Will Sliney (artist), Veronica Gandini (colorist)

The Story: Valkyrie kills the Marvel Universe.

The Review: Having largely dealt with the threat of the Doom Maidens, battle-mad eldritch-warped valkyries, Marvel’s new team of Defenders find themselves up against the wall when Brunnhilde, the heroine known as Valkyrie, becomes their commander. We get some teasing history on the Doom Maidens and how they came to be, as the new Valkyrie wipes the floor with half the heroines in the Marvel Universe.

If you’re looking for superhero action on a larger scale, this issue provides. Especially with a heroine playing the role of antagonist, it’s pretty amazing to see such powerhouses as Spider-Woman and Captain Marvel tossed around like rag dolls. The stakes are high, and the fighting brutal. Unfortunately, the fight is short, simple, and probably better on paper than…well, on paper. Though the battle between She-Hulk and Valkyrie is a high-point, this contest is simply too one-sided and hopeless to really get the blood pumping. But then, that’s not the point of this issue.

Indeed, though this issue features a regular battle royal, it isn’t about battle or rage, but a rejection of such things. I won’t say too much, but Cullen Bunn is absolutely clear that, to him, this issue is about the interpersonal relationships between these new Midgard Valkyrior.

Admirable as that is, the greatest problem with this issue is that it doesn’t dive deep enough. Both the banter during the fight and the pleas for peace that follow are fairly shallow. Worst of all, the climax of the story is unclear, leaving you unsure what happened until it is reported to you. The book appeals to pathos but doesn’t put enough heart into it to achieve the epic conclusion it’s reaching for.

The pacing is also interesting, off if not necessarily flawed. While I appreciate the greater focus on tone and the aftermath of battle, I’m not sure we need an entire page of Valkyrie climbing stairs. Likewise, the book’s many flashbacks and visions of the future are interesting, but a trifle unclear, which naturally begs the question of why so many were included in a book that could have so benefitted from a little more time to focus on fallout of this arc.

Will Sliney’s art is similarly mixed. Sliney provides attractive linework, but his inking feels a little heavy at times. Either way, it’s hard to fault an artist who is able to draw so many of Marvel’s leading ladies with such determination and strength.
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The Fearless Defenders #1 – Review

By: Cullen Bunn (Writer), Will Sliney (Artist), Veronica Gandini (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

The Review:  It’s Ladies Night at the House of Ideas, which I guess is reason enough for a certain amount of celebration; mainstream comics are a bit of a sausage-fest after all.  So, when a book featuring two badass babes going all out to raise a ruckus pops up on the shelf, it is perhaps a debt owed by all red-blooded man-nerds to pick it up. All that ogling of Frank Cho’s libidinous artwork had to come at some kinda price, right fellas?

I jest, of course, but there’s a kernel of truth hidden amongst my pseudo-chauvinistic posturing. We often hear the case put forward in the comic book press that women, diverse ethnic groups and those of a non-hetero persuasion are much maligned when it comes to the world of capes and tights. This book tackles all three hot topics at once, and does so naturally and succinctly. Any move towards equality in the super-powered community deserves at least a respectful nod for trying to make right…but at the end of the day, the main thing we care about as readers is comics that tell a great story filled with engaging characters and dynamite visuals. On those terms I’m afraid this issue comes up a little short.

The basic premise is a good one. I love an Odd Couple pairing and Misty Knight and Valkyrie are nothing if not that. Teaming the “Badass private investigator,” with the “Last Shieldmaiden and defender of Asgardia” is a scenario ripe for terse, witty banter – two more opposing worlds it may be hard to find. It’s a set-up that was at the core of one of my favourite comic runs of the last few years, Greg Pak’s Incredible Herc, where street-smart, likeable techno-brat Amadeus Cho proved a perfect foil for the tragi-comic Greek God Hercules. There’s not a whole lot of interaction between Misty and Valk’ here but the combination certainly has a lot of potential.

The team-up itself takes a while to occur. The story begins with Misty in the middle of a mission from Archeologist Dr Annabelle Riggs to retrieve some stolen Asgardian artifacts from a band of mercenaries. The job gets messy when a villain (who I can only assume is Morgan le Fey) interrupts and makes off with most of the loot. Misty makes her way back to Dr Riggs at her dig site with the one artifact she was able to recover, though she could hardly have picked up a worse one – once activated this Asgardian ‘music box’ plays a tune that reanimates the dead. Zombies ensue, Valkyrie turns up to help Misty, and the book sets up its stall from there.
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Captain Marvel #8 – Review


By: Kelly Sue DeConnick & Christopher Sebela (story), Dexter Soy (art), Veronica Gandini (colors)

The Story: Two cosmic heroes versus a walking pile of rusting wreckage.  Overkill, no?

The Review: If you want to know the truth, I don’t much like the obligatory battle sequences in superhero comics.  At the end of the day, they make a limited contribution to the actual story and for a reviewer, you can’t really say anything about them except whether they’re exciting or not.  They tend to be more of a showcase for artists than for the writing.  But of all battle sequences, the ones I most particularly dislike are those involving giant robots.

Blasphemy—I know!  In my defense, I do love those scenes a whole lot more in a big, splashy film with tons of CGI and where the sequence can last for as much as five mind-blowing minutes.  In a comic, it mostly boils down to the heroes fruitlessly blasting away at the mindless automaton until they figure out some way to either (a) shut down its operating system or (b) blow it up all at once.  And that’s pretty much how Carol and Monica spend most of this issue.
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Avengers Academy #21 – Review

By: Christos Gage (writer), Sean Chen (pencils), Scott Hanna (inks), Jeremy Cox & Veronica Gandini (colors), Joe Caramagna (letters), John Denning & Jake Thomas (assistant editors) & Bill Rosemann (editor)

The Story: After the destruction of the Infinite Mansion during Fear Itself, the Avengers Academy needs a new home, and possibly a new direction.

Five Things: 

1. Mixing things up is good.  To me, comics are kinda like that old myth about sharks: “If they stop moving forward, they will die.”  The worst times in superhero comics are when the stories run in circles.  I know there are fans that enjoy having the same story reserved to them year after year, but it’s not for me.  So, the idea of moving the Avengers Academy to the old West Coast Avengers facility and bringing in some new faces (both teachers and students) is great.  Just keep mixing it up with these comics!  Sustain the things that work and trash the stuff that stinks, but don’t be afraid to fail and keep moving forward!

2. WONDERFUL twist ending! That was an awesome twist at the end where we see [SPOILER] the evil future selves of our young Academy heroes.  It plays on two big themes of the series.  One, that the reason these kids are getting training is that they are the most likely to go evil due to being fiddled with by Norman Osborn.  Two, we kinda saw these adult versions of the kids before during the Korvac story (around issue #12) when the kids were able to access their adult power levels to defeat Korvac.  But, that wasn’t really seeing their actual future selves, just their future power-sets and we didn’t know that they became villainous.  Nor did we know that they had kidnapped Reptil and sent back “future, evil Reptil”.  How very sneaky and villainous!  Love it!  However, that final splash page really should have had an editor’s note referring people to that back issue because if I look at that splash page with “new reader” eyes, I wouldn’t have a clue what was going on since the only visual cues are that Finesse has longer hair and the electric guy looks grown up (Veil, Hazmat & Mettle look the same).

3. Too much talking in the middle.  There a lot of hand-wringing in the middle of this issue – too much of the teachers and students talking about each other from across the room.  It seems like that could have been wrapped up in a page if the creators weren’t afraid of old-fashioned exposition.  Just have the verbal misunderstanding happen at the same time as the physical conflict.  I know it seems unrealistic to have these long speeches in the middle of the fisticuffs, but that is far preferable to having to waste several pages to get to the same end point.  This comic existed to get us to the money shot (the cool reveal on the final page), not to beat into our heads how much misunderstanding there is among these folks.
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Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #2 – Review

By: Sean McKeever (writer), Mike Norton (art), Veronica Gandini (colors), Clayton Cowles (letters) & Lauren Sankovitch (editor)

The Story: The young Initiative characters are still being pressed into action during Fear Itself and Thor Girl is asked to “take one for the team”.

What’s Good: Young heroes are hard to introduce partially because it’s hard to find good stuff for them to do.  During a “normal” time in the Marvel Universe, there are usually at least several major threats to the Earth/universe and the A-list heroes tackle those threats.  It’s a problem I’ve always had with characters like the New Mutants: If the threat is HUGE, it seems like something the X-Men-proper should handle, but if the threat is small, I don’t feel like I need to spend money to watch B-list heroes tackle B-list problems.  It’s a Catch 22.

Enter Fear Itself!  With a mega-event like FI, it makes all kinds of sense that the kiddie heroes and B-listers would get drafted into action out of necessity.  If escaped criminals from the Raft are rampaging in my town I’d want Thor to show up, but I’d rather have Frog-Man than nothing.  That’s basically the set up for Youth in Revolt.  As in the first issue, the mere presence of these kids drives home what a nasty situation FI is and we get to see some non-traditional heroes doing their best and being heroic.  In some ways, they’re almost more heroic because they aren’t as tough.  At one point, the kids end up in battle with a semi-major villain.  Thor or Red Hulk or Iron Man would just destroy the guy, but these kids are legitimately threatened by this villain and you can really respect their actions all the more because of it.  With any luck, one or two of these characters will be compelling enough that they might end up in some other Marvel books after FI.  Others (like Frogman) will go back on the shelf until the next event.
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Fear Itself: Youth in Revolt #1 – Review

By: Sean McKeever (writer), Mike Norton (art), Veronica Gandini (c0lors), Clayton Cowles (letters) & Lauren Sankovitch (editor)

The Story: Even when you have THREE teams of Avengers, they can’t handle everything.  When FEAR ITSELF strikes on a global scale, the need arises to call in some C-listers to help out!

What’s Good: Even though I “liked but didn’t love” FEAR ITSELF #1 and #2, I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that my OCD nature will force me to read the entire event.  One of the big things FEAR ITSELF is pitching is that this is a global catastrophe, but that just didn’t sink in during those first couple issues.  Sure, there was action happening under the ocean and whatever rainforest Hulk was hanging out in when the hammer fell from the sky….and of course, TWO hammers fell in NYC.  But, everything still felt pretty contained as if folks living in Atlanta were still going about their daily lives, playing Farmville, grocery shopping, etc.

What made this issue kinda neat is that it really drove home the point that FEAR ITSELF is a big deal.  Anytime you’ve got Steve Rogers asking a batch of C-listers for help maintaining the order, you know events are dire indeed.  Maybe that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it isn’t meant as such.  As comic readers we are desensitized to seeing Thor, Hulk, Cap, etc. facing off against global devastation because it happens almost monthly somewhere in the Marvel Universe.  But, what doesn’t happen every month is that the problem is so BIG that civilization needs the help of Prodigy, Gravity, Stunt-Master, Thor Girl, Ultragirl, Red Nine, Firestar, Komodo, Cloud 9 and a bunch of other folks from the Initiative days.
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X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas #2 – Review

By Jeff Parker (Writer), Carlo Pagulayan, Gabriel Hardman, Chris Samnee, & Carlos Rodriguez (Pencils), Jason Paz, Hardman, Samnee, &Terry Pallot (Inks), and Wilfred Quintana & Veronica Gandini

Some Thoughts Before The Review: The first X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas book was solid and entertaining. That said, it wasn’t anything special and a bit too much of an “X” title for my taste. Perhaps the second half of the mini-series will swing things more in the favor of the Agents of Atlas.

The Story: The X-Men and the Agents of Atlas fight for a while until they realize that there is a connection between them. Meanwhile, Venus finds herself at the mercy of a follower of Aphrodite.

What’s Good: The fight that opens X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas #2 is easily the highlight of the entire book. It’s chaotic as hell and a whole lot of fun to see play out…especially when Mr. Lao the Agent’s dragon gets involved. The art team does an excellent job of packing a ton of characters on each page during the scene and Jeff Parker’s battle-banter shines. Also, importantly, both teams come out of the encounter looking pretty damned good. The Agents prove that they’ve got what it takes to hang with the big dogs, while the X-Men once again show why they are one of the best comic teams of all time.

While Jeff Parker’s script is entertaining and serviceable, the only real surprise about it is how he manages to tie the bonus story from last month into the main X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas plot. It’s a nice twist to an otherwise predictable story. Thankfully, the book as a whole is elevated by the impressive artwork. The styles used fit the various segments and really make each piece of the story feel visually distinct.

What’s Not So Good: Outside of the interesting plot twist involving the bonus segment from X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas #1, there’s little in X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas #2 that you haven’t seen before. Jeff Parker uses standard “good guys vs. good guys” plot beats from start to finish. The teams fight, someone gets both sides to listen, and soon they realize they shouldn’t be fighting. It’s predictable and, to be honest, a bit boring. The great action and artwork covers up the dull plot to a certain extent, but it can’t mask it completely.

Conclusion: X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas #2 is a visually impressive, entertaining conclusion to a fun mini-series. It doesn’t really do anything new, but chances are you probably won’t mind.

Grade: C+

-Kyle Posluszny


X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas #1 – Review

By Jeff Parker (Writer – Both Stories)

“The X-Heist” Art Team – Carlo Pagulayan (Pencils), Jason Paz (Inks) and Wil Quintana (Colors)

“Atomic Age Heroes” Art Team – Chris Samnee (Art) and Veronica Gandini (Colors)

Some Thoughts Before The Review: The X-Men/Agents of Atlas crossover seems a bit unnecessary. That said, I can’t help but support it if it helps to grab more readers for the next volume of the Agents of Atlas ongoing.

The Story: In “The X-Heist” the Agents of Atlas attempt to steal Cerebro from Utopia in order to use it in their search for the missing Venus. “Atomic Age Heroes” is decidedly old school in tone and style as the X-Men and the Agents of Atlas fight it out because of mutant wildlife.

What’s Good And What’s Not So Good: X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas #1 (lead by the “X-Heist” story) is, somewhat surprisingly, a fine start to what looks to be an entertaining bridge between the Atlas ongoing and the eventual monthly Incredible Hercules bonus feature. The X-Men and the Agents have a confrontation for a logical reason and that goes a long way towards making the limited series feel more meaningful than your typical cash/reader grab-fueled crossover right from the start. The “Atomic Age Heroes” story, meanwhile, is a fun slice of retro comic goodness that proves to be a nice little addition to the book.

While the storytelling and character work by Jeff Parker is as strong as expected (it’s what has made Atlas a favorite of mine) for both stories, Parker’s use of Matt Fraction’s now signature character information boxes in “The X-Heist” is, in a word, annoying. I get that the limited series is designed to get Uncanny readers interested in the Agents, but by using Fraction’s style it seems as though Parker (it might be Marvel’s fault) is setting up a bait and switch move. Agents of Atlas has never read like an “X” book, so maybe it would have been a better move to let the limited series read more like an Atlas book. At the very least it would have given new readers a better taste of what the Atlas series is really like. At least “Atomic Age Heroes” makes up for it somewhat by reading like long like comic from Marvel’s past.

Carlo Pagulayan’s work for “The X-Heist” is very impressive and does both teams justice. The X-Men look iconic, the Agents look appropriately pulpy, and the action makes good use of all the characters battling it out. Everything looks slick, modern, and polished during most of the “X-Heist,” though I’m not quite sure that’s exactly the best style for the comic. It makes the Agents look really out of place and, I hate to say it, but a bit silly. Two scenes employ a more familiar Atlas style however, and it makes me wonder why the look couldn’t have been used for the entire book.

Chris Samnee’s work for “Atomic Age Heroes” is a perfect fit for the way the short bonus tale plays out. It’s retro and old school without ever giving off the sense that someone was trying to hard. In short, Samnee’s art hits pretty much all the right notes and helps “Atomic Age Heroes” to be a lot of fun.

Conclusion: More Atlas is always a good thing, but I can’t help but be disappointed by the fact that someone felt that the Agents needed to conform to the X-Men style.

Grade: B

-Kyle Posluszny


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